The Government should act to address concerns about the scrapping of the default retirement age, an employment specialist has urged.
Chris Piggott of Irwin Mitchell in Birmingham said there was growing confusion among many businesses surrounding the “transitional period” prior to abolishing the default retirement age.
Until the draft regulations were published last week the Government had indicated that there will be a six month period – from April to September this year – when the default retirement age of 65 and the statutory retirement procedures could be lawfully used.
In January Acas published guidance relating to the same, including a timetable summarising the transitional provisions for employers.
But Irwin Mitchell pointed out that last week Acas issued a statement suggesting the transitional provisions have been revisited, with the option for employers to give 12 months’ notice, provided they meet certain conditions.
This is reflected in the draft regulations now published with the six-month transitional period now appearing to have been abandoned.
Irwin Mitchell said the draft regulations set new goalposts for using the transitional provisions – the notice of intended retirement must have been issued on or before April 5, 2011, the employee must have reached the age of 65 – or the normal retirement age if this is higher – between April 6, 2011 and September 30, 2011, and the requirements of the statutory retirement procedures must be met.
Mr Pigott said: “Employers have been preparing for these changes for some time and may well have acted upon the timetable previously published.
“As it stands, an employer who gives a notice of retirement before April 5, to an employee who ‘attains’ the age of 65 between April 6, 2011, and September 30, 2011, can follow the current procedures which are in force.
“However, confusion arises where an employee is already 65 as they will not ‘attain’ age 65 during the relevant window. This must be a drafting error and cannot have been intended by the Government.
“In any event it leaves those employers who have issued notices of retirement to employees who have already reached 65 in a state of confusion.
“There has been much talk about employers not being supportive of the plans, it is likely that concerns over the transition period and confusion within guidance issued will only exacerbate such problems further.”
He added: “What is fundamentally clear though is that employers will be open to claims on the grounds of both age discrimination and unfair dismissal if they do not take note of the changes, so it is undoubtedly an area where they should tread carefully.”